On the hills approximately 6 miles to the north east of Derry/Londonderry is the small but abandoned signal station at Killylane. Constructed during the Second World War, the site was used for around 20 years as a Royal Navy shore-to-ship radio communication station communicating with naval vessels operating across the Atlantic.
The City was of huge naval importance during WW2 being the first port of call for many trans-Atlantic convoys. In 1940 the port became HMS Ferret and was the most westerly British naval port in Europe. In 1942 after the Americans had entered the war, the US Navy made it home setting up a new naval port at Lisahally, titled BASE ONE EUROPE. Naval activity dominated the area, with the following locations having been commandeered for the war effort:
- His Majesty’s Naval Base (HMNB) Londonderry at Eglinton Barracks (HMS Ferret)
- US Naval Base (USNB) Londonderry at Lisahally
- Royal Naval Air Squadron (RNAS) Eglinton (HMS Gannet)
- RNAS Ballykelly (HMS Sealion)
- RNAS Maydown (HMS Shrike)
- RNAS Limavady
With nearly 36,000 British, American and Canadian service personnel occupied in the war effort around Londonderry maintaining the safety of the Atlantic convoys, essential to Britains survival and to success in Europe, the naval activities of the River Foyle can not be underestimated. With such a range of activities spread across what is a modest geographic region, sites such as this signals station are special to have survived; most likely due to the remote location and use of the site long after the cessation of hostilities.
What exists today are the main buildings that were constructed on this site. It is unlikely that any more than around 60 people worked at any one time on the site, in a mixture of roles related to communications; operations personnel, radio operators, technical staff to maintain the transmitters and generators, administration staff, and site security.
Site Visit – December 2017
An associated dispersed accommodation site with the airfield at Eglinton is located on the Ballygudden Road and was reportedly used by the military until the 1960’s. Being the nearest military accommodation to the station at Killylane, only 2 miles by road, it is highly likely that some of the military staff working here would have been billeted here